A giant glowing orb comes from outer space and lands in New York City. Suddenly a life form emerges from the orb we later learn to be called Klaatu (Keanu Reeves). Strangely enough a sniper opens fire on the friendly alien, even before he has revealed himself to be Keanu. Unless I am mistaken, an advanced creature with highly evolved transportation should be treated well, because his bad side is not something it would be wise for us to discover. This is the kind of over reactive thinking that stalls the 2008 remake The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Klaatu is rushed to a hospital where needless drama concerning his health is raised. The person who sees the advantage to helping him is Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly). Staying true to the original, he recovers quickly and is hesitant to entrust the US government with the details of his mission. This opens up a can of worms. With the aid of Helen, Klaatu flees and a manhunt is organized for his capture.
Part of the updating changes the motivation behind Klaatu’s arrival. In the original, the red scare and atom bombs were the hot topics, so he came to Earth to warn us that sending nukes into space jeopardizes not just our planet but others as well. In the updated version, the usefulness of Earth to sustain life is a rarity unappreciated by humans. In effect, the environmentally friendly buzzword “green” is the root of the ordeal. By not treating Earth well, Klaatu threatens to remove us.
This is where Gort, Klaatu’s giant robot, comes in. Those of you keeping track have noticed that the use of the original names is carried over. Gort is a little different as this giant robot’s name is given through an acronym supplied by the army. Taller than the original, Gort posses and exercises the power to destroy man’s carbon footprint. The effects heavy scenes are a toss up. Gort looks like nothing but computer wizardry. Some of the destructive sequences are eye pleasing but heartless, since the audience has little investment in what is destroyed.
I had an issue with the excess. Time is spent trying to convey a sense of where Klaatu gets his powers. Fancy (contrived) zooming effects highlight traveling through electric currents. It’s an unnecessary attempt to show the audience that Klaatu can turn the tables and use the guards’ closed circuit cameras. The same micro zoom effect is used to highlight the destructive force which is akin to an army of robotic ants. I thought we had helicopters. If helicopters can fly, then why does this movie repeatedly show computer crafted fakes in flight? It’s a noticeably cheap effect that director Scott Derrickson should have halted along with the excessive, and maybe symbolic, green filters. I think this decade will be remembered as the time when every film appeared to be shot in London. These tricks have faired better elsewhere, but here everything reminds you that this is a by-the-numbers production greatly lacking in creativity.
Somehow, Derrickson managed to fit the most boring characters of the year into one film and give the actors nothing interesting to work with. Jaden Smith was a cute kid in The Pursuit of Happyness, but here he has nothing to do and is lumped in with Connelly in an effort to create a subplot. Ok you got me; he does manage to play World of Warcraft with a laptop’s trackpad. Reeves ushers in exposition as the least entertaining visitor to ever grace Earth. Connelly quickly becomes an android devoid of human dialog. Kathy Bates even makes an appearance as The Defense Secretary. Savvy in computers, she can arrange a touch screen slideshow to accent her off the cuff phrases. With characters so inhuman, I found myself not caring about anything in what is ultimately a predictable and disposable film. Do your worst Gort, because these people aren’t worth saving. **